Today’s Apple event will be an important one, as it will bring (among other things) a new iPhone SE, but that will be old hardware at a new, lower price. The high-end iPhones won’t be due for an upgrade until September, and rumors of a particular upgrade have resurfaced: the notch will be replaced by a punch hole.

This change has been rumored enough, but different analysts offer different timelines on how it will happen. Mark Gurman from Bloomberg suggested that the Face ID system will come under the display this year, Ross Young of View Supply Chain Advisors provides a more gradual timeline divided into three steps.

First, the notch turns into a punch hole – two punch holes, basically a pill-shaped hole for the Face ID module and a round hole for the selfie camera. This is called the “pill + hole” design. Young expects the design to be exclusive to the two iPhone 14 Pro models, while the vanilla phones will still use the notch design (similar to the current refresh rate distribution).

Second, all iPhone 15 models will switch to the dual punch hole configuration in 2023, and the holes may be smaller than this year. However, it is not clear how much smaller.

Possible timeline for moving away from the notched design for upcoming iPhones
Possible timeline for moving away from the notched design for upcoming iPhones

The last step is to move the Face ID module below the display. That doesn’t require a massive redesign, as the main obstacle is that one of the layers of the OLED screen isn’t very transparent to the infrared light used by the face scanner. There are three ways to fix that: replace it with a different, more transparent material, use a “back laser bore” or use a different pattern for the cathodes that drive the OLED pixels.

Young believes the latter approach will be adopted, as one supplier is already qualified to go into mass production. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Face ID under the screen will be ready before 2023 – in fact, the analysts think it’s unlikely.

One potential challenge is that such a change would require the display team and the sensor team to work together on the problem, and such a simultaneous change would take longer. Also, Apple prefers dual source components to keep costs down and supply stable, so a second supplier will have to qualify as well.

Whether the under-display design is set for 2023 or pushed back to 2024, there’s no mention of a fingerprint reader. Last year, Gurman reported that Apple tried UD readers, but were unhappy with the design and gave up.

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